Proso millet: Drought tolerant and nutritious small millet
Author: Smita N. Shingane


Proso millet (Panicum miliaceum L.) also called as common millet, broomcorn millet, French millet, Hog millet or white millet is one of the most important crop domesticated about 10000 years ago in central and Eastern Asia and spread from China to the Black Sea region of Europe by 5000 BC (Lawler, 2009). There have been various opinions on the possible origin of proso millet, like central Asia or China (Zohary & Hopf, 2000). In the past a few years, archaeological evidences have revealed that the loess-soil belt of northern China is likely the location where proso millet was domesticated (Lu et al. 2005; Zhao 2006).

This crop is under cultivation in China, India, former USSR, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Afghanistan and Romania. It is grown both in the tropics and sub-tropical climates at altitudes as high as 2700 feet as a minor crop by the resource poor marginal farmers. Agronomically it is a short duration crop with very low water requirement and highly tolerant to heat and drought. This makes it highly preferable crop for extreme soil and climatic conditions where it can give reasonable yield when other crops succumb.

Botany and taxonomy

The proso plant is considered a short-day plant and usually an erect annual, 30 to 100 cm tall with few tillers and an adventitious root system. Proso millet stems and leaves are covered with slight hairs. The leaves may be up to 30 cm long with a short ligule but without auricles (Cobley 1976). The stem is terminated by a 10 to 45 cm long drooping panicle that may be open or compact (Hulse et al. 1980). Proso millet (2n = 36) is considered a self-pollinated crop, but natural cross-pollination may exceed 10% (Popov 1946). Proso millet seeds are smaller than pearl millet and grain sorghum, generally oval in shape and about 3 mm long and 2 mm wide (Cardenas et al. 1983). The seeds vary in color as white, cream, yellow, orange, red, black to brown.

Cultivated kinds of P. miliaceum are commonly subdivided into five subspecies (Lyssov, 1975). These are mainly recognized as races without any taxonomic validity. Race miliaceum resembles wild P. miliaceum in inflorescence morphology. It is characterized by large, open inflorescences with sub-erect branches that are sparingly subdivided. Race patentissimum with its slender and diffused panicle branches is often difficult to distinguish from race miliaceum. These two races occur across the range of broomcorn millet cultivation from Eastern Europe to Japan. Highly evolved cultivars of broomcorn millet have more or less compact inflorescences. These are classified into races contractum, compactum and ovatum. Cultivars included in race contractum have compact, drooping inflorescences. Those belonging to race compactum have cylindrical shaped inflorescences that are essentially erect. Cultivars with compact and slightly curved inflorescences that are ovate in shape are included in race ovatum. Races have no ecogeographic unity.

Nutritional composition and food value

Proso millet is high in protein content (>14%), rich in minerals, vitamins and other nutritional attributes which are better than commonly eaten cereals (Table 1). The protein quality is also very superior when compared with other cereals (Dikshit and Sivaraj, 2013).

Table 1: Nutrient composition of Proso millet and other cereals (per 100 g)

Food gain




Crude fibre

Mineral matter



Fe (mg)

Proso millet




























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About Author / Additional Info:
Dr. Smita N. Shingane has completed Ph.D. in (Genetics and Plant Breeding)